Kolkata, Feb 15 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Saturday drew flak from opposition parties for standing by a controversial Trinamool Congress leader, allegedly involved in a murder case and known for his repeated comments inciting violence.
Anubrata Mandal, Trinamool's Birbhum district party president, is one of those against whom the family of a murdered man - the father of a dissident party worker - have made allegations of involvement in the crime.
"Keshto (Anubrata Mandal) is sitting here. Many people are after him. He is a good organiser. And I am always prepared to go to the last for a good organiser," Banerjee said addressing students and youth activists of the party at Burdwan district's Durgapur.
Claiming that Mandal was unwell, Banerjee said: "He suffers from an oxygen shortage. He has to carry oxygen with him. We must take account of this in a humane way."
The chief minister's patronizing remarks about Mandal came a day after the Calcutta High Court observed political rivalry as the cause of the murder of Sagar Ghosh, the father of Hriday Ghosh, a former Trinamool worker of Birbhum who contested as an independent candidate in the rural polls in 2013.
The court has ordered the director general of police to constitute a Special Investigation Team to probe the crime, which took place at the victim's home in Parui village of the district.
The family has alleged Mandal's hand in the murder.
Justice Dipanka Datta described the probe so far as "far from being satisfactory" and said the SIT and the police chief would only be accountable to the court and not to the political executive for their actions in the course of the investigation.
It also barred the police chief from asking for the government's advice on the case and asked the government also not to volunteer to aid him.
Banerjee's remarks have come as a fresh weapon for the opposition, which said she was giving a message to the police and administration not to take action against Mandal.
"Police know who the real culprits are. If police starts taking action, Trinamool will be in a soup. She is giving out a message to the administration don't arrest anybody who is my loyalist," said Congress' state chief Adhir Chowdhury.
Speaking in the same vein, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Mohammad Salim said: "It is a calculated statement to ensure no action is taken against Mandal as per law. If the CM says she will stick to such persons ill the end, it will only increase the lawlessness we see in the state."
Mandal gained notoriety during the panchayat polls by asking partymenand supporters to tackle opponents as well as police with violence.
"If Independent candidates issue threats, set fire to their houses. If the administration thinks of supporting the independents, then hurl bombs at the police and the administration: I am telling you," he had said, days ahead of Ghosh's killing.
1Last November, Mandal threatened to cut off the hands of Congress activists if they try to damage hoardings of Mamata Banerjee.
Days later, he warned that his party workers would "lay siege on the houses of those who will try to intimidate them".